Fine Gael members dissent from Project Eagle report

Public Accounts Committee split on conclusions of final report on Nama sale of NI loans

Fine Gael members of  committee believe  wording of  final report implies wrongdoing on  part of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fine Gael members of committee believe wording of final report implies wrongdoing on part of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Fine Gael members of a Dáil committee examining the sale of the Project Eagle portfolio by Nama, the National Asset Management Agency, have dissented from the committee’s final report.

Project Eagle was the name given to Nama’s Northern Ireland property loans portfolio, which it sold in April 2014 to Cerberus, a US company, for about €1.6 billion. The Comptroller and Auditor General concluded the sale involved a loss to the Irish taxpayer of €220 million.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee considered its final report on the sale at a private meeting yesterday, but members were split on its conclusions.

The committee had concluded it was not appropriate for Minister for Finance Michael Noonan or the Department of Finance to meet representatives from the bidders Cerberus the day before the sales process ended.

After objections were raised previously by the Fine Gael members of the committee, the wording in the report was altered to say the meeting was not “procedurally appropriate”. However the party intervened again yesterday, requesting the criticisms be removed entirely from the report.

The four Fine Gael members of the committee said Mr Noonan was not asked any questions about the meeting when he appeared before the committee. They said this was a denial of due process for the Minister. They also believe the wording implies wrongdoing on the part of Mr Noonan.

Voted in favour

Fianna Fáil

Fine Gael TDs – Peter Burke, Alan Farrell, Josepha Madigan and Noel Rock – called a further vote rejecting the substantive content of the report, but again lost.Their dissent will now be recorded as part of the final report, which will be published in full next week.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the criticisms.

“As the report is not yet published, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time on reports of its findings or content. “

The committee concludes a commission of investigation should be launched into the sale of Project Eagle.

The committee’s conclusions are strongly critical of Nama and the manner in which it conducted the sale.

It says a more rigorous and well-documented risk-management process should have taken place.

“It is entirely possible that a differently designed sales strategy may have yielded a better return for the Irish State. It is, therefore, the opinion of the committee that Nama have been unable to demonstrate that it got value for the Irish State in relation to the price achieved,” the draft report states.

It is due to be launched next Tuesday.